The Mediating Effect of Empathy on the Relationship between Valence of Others Event and How People Choose Gifts

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Jae Won Hwang

경영대학 경영학과
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서울대학교 대학원
fortune of others emotionempathygift-giving behaviorexperiential product
학위논문 (박사)-- 서울대학교 대학원 : 경영학과, 2016. 8. 주우진.
When people interact in human relationships, and reveal themselves by confessing their current—whether positive or negative—emotions and concerns, they empathize and exchange emotional support such as compliments and encouragements. In particular, empathy is the shared feeling and delivery of another persons feelings, and indicates a deep understanding of that person. When one attentively listens and empathizes with another persons story, it is possible to engage in a meaningful conversation, and this results in the strengthening of human relationship. In particular, news regarding people of various relationships can be stumbled upon while using social media such as Facebook, for which one can express empathy through various reactive functions such as liking, commenting, and sharing. As modes of sharing and communication have increased, so are situations in which one must empathize with others stories.
Most of other studies on human feelings toward others stories separated each of the two valences arising upon hearing others events, and suggested that one can have empathic or counter-empathic emotion according to how the deservingness is formed within each valence. Other papers on positive and negative empathy, with which people share others happiness and sorrow like their own, respectively, largely focused on factors that might influence empathy emerging within each valence. Among previous papers on human emotions toward others stories, only a few of them delved into the different degrees of empathy resulted from the comparison of the two valences (fortune vs. misfortune) under the premise of others effort, and the research into the mechanism is quite limited, as well.
As such, this paper set out to find an answer to whether one can share others joy and sorrow on equal levels and tried to verify that ones empathetic reaction, an important factor in strengthening interpersonal relationships, might differ depending on the valence of events experienced by others.
Section 1 of this paper focused on empathy, a reactive emotion that strengthens interpersonal relationships, to identify the asymmetric manifestation of empathy affected by the valence of events experienced by others, to examine the mechanism with a focus on ones inner-self and to investigate when these effects become profound.
What would be different about empathetic behaviors for others coming from the asymmetry of empathy depending on the direct effects of valence? When someone experiences an event, language can be very limited in adequately expressing empathy. The feeling of empathy towards someone sometimes manifests in the form of a gift. Thus, in section 2, feeling strong empathy towards an event experienced by someone results in ones attempt to purchase a gift from that someones frame of reference, in order to understand from that perspective. Therefore, the difference in empathy towards events experienced by others was predicted to be reflected in the difference in ones attitude and behavior in the effort of selecting a gift, and the type of selected gift.
The main results of this study are as follows.
Study 1 proved the effect of valence of events experienced by others on empathy bias, and confirmed the mediating effect of self-esteem as the mechanism of this phenomenon
Study 2 confirmed the moderating effect of social distance based on similarity. This indicates that the closer we are to others, the more hindered we are from being immersed in their situation. The effect of asymmetric empathy from the valence of events experienced by others on gift-giving, which is another form of empathy, was confirmed. As empathy increases perspective taking in the process of gift selection, it was confirmed that it increased ones effort in information seeking while choosing a gift, and ones purchase intent of experiential products that can provide emotional satisfaction in terms of product type. Study 3 provided gift-giving scenarios to celebrate (console) someones joy (sorrow), in which the degree of empathy towards others circumstances after listening to the event was confirmed to cause differences in information seeking while choosing a gift and in purchase intent of experiential products. Study 4 confirmed that empathy increased the selection of experiential goods for product types of to do and to have that exclude the sense of sharing.
The implications of this study are as follows.
First, whereas previous studies focused on the manifestation of asymmetric empathy caused by the valence since, under the precondition of deservingness, one can feel different degrees of empathy by comparing the two valences (fortune vs. misfortune). Second, we focused on the internal change rather than the external change for the mechanism of the asymmetrical development of empathy. In other words, this study found that, considering empathy requires cognitive efforts, one might need peace of mind to be able to examine, fully understand and share others feelings. Third, by identifying differences in action that might be caused by asymmetric empathy, it expanded the scope of gift-giving. Its particularly meaningful that the study expanded the concept of experiential gifts, which has been limitedly considered in gift-giving, to include to do and to have factors while excluding the sense of sharing. Furthermore, this study widened the scope of the research into gift-giving by investigating what kind of influence different degrees of empathy can have on the selection of experiential goods. The study could serve as a useful tool for marketers devising gift product strategies by identifying gift-giving circumstances that can provoke empathy and by suggesting gift products (experiential or material products) appropriate for a given circumstance. It investigated the impact of empathy on experiential goods, in particular, and thus, provides a practical implication that an affective approach utilizing empathy would be effective in setting up a promotional strategy for experiential gifts. Finally, as making payments is more convenient with payment systems on the mobile platform based on media environments, where people frequently access others current status, its now possible to make a more impromptu and reactive response to others events. Considering this, the development of asymmetric empathy and difference in action, this studys key findings, will be more pronounced. Therefore, this study is of significance in that it provides a timely framework where we can understand consumer attitude and behavior displayed in various networking communications and purchasing activities on online and mobile platforms in the future.
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College of Business Administration/Business School (경영대학/대학원)Dept. of Business Administration (경영학과)Theses (Ph.D. / Sc.D._경영학과)
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